an interesting clash

Tue, Nov 13, 2007

Scott Wilson has blogged about OpenID in education while at the same time the Guardian has published an article about the resistance of students to institutional invasion of their private lives. The two scenarios are mutually exclusive.

“Here you are, student, a space we have given you in Facebook. You can use your new institutional OpenID identity to login”. “No thanks, I already have a Facebook account”.

“Here you are, student, you can now login to your own, private Facebook account using your institutional identity”. “No thanks. I have two lives. Institutional and private”.

Apart from the obvious clash of cultures, the expansion of an institution into “freebie” land is a little worrying. It’s ok if an institution is just offering social sandboxes for its students to play in. If it’s offering freebie space in which to learn, then that’s a different matter. What the institution is technically saying is, “here’s a Facebook account. Keep your files there, we can’t be bothered to host them here”. There’s no SLA between an institution and Facebook. Facebook could lose all the students' data and there would be no repercussions. Other than angry students battering down the helpdesk’s door.

What if students are assessed by what they do in these freebie hand-out services? What if the service loses their data on examination day? What if their tutor can’t get access to the account?

It’s one thing saving a buck or two and sticking an institutional logo on a freebie package that becomes available through the latest technology fad. It’s quite another to bring that freebie service into a properly managed learning environment.

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